Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma took to Twitter to share video footage of a ‘Gharial’ (Gavialis gangeticus) that was thought to be extinct in the waters of Assam, particularly the River Brahmaputra.
Notably, this new sighting is significant in light of another sighting in Kaziranga in March of this year at Silghat.
The critically endangered gharial was first spotted on the eve of World Wildlife Day in Assam’s Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve (KNPTR).
Great news for all wildlifers: Gharial ( Gavialis gangeticus) was thought to be extinct in the waters of Assam, especially River Brahmaputra. This new sighting becomes important in view of another sighting in March this year in Kaziranga at Silghat pic.twitter.com/Dq7naK4z2g
— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) October 31, 2022
Despite previous sightings of the animal, this was the first time it was captured on camera in the national park.
It should be noted that the wild gharial population has declined dramatically since the 1930s and is now only 2% of its historical range.
Since the early 1980s, conservation programmes in India and Nepal have focused on reintroducing captive-bred gharials.
The Indian Gharial is the sole survivor of an ancient family of crocodiles that once swarmed the Ganges and its tributaries from Chambal in Rajasthan to Mahanadi in Odisha and the Brahmaputra and Barak valleys of Assam. Their population has been steadily declining since the 1930s.
Gharial Gavialis gangeticus, a long-snouted crocodilian endemic to India, is Critically Endangered and has been on the verge of extinction for several decades. Gharials numbered in the hundreds by 1974, from historical populations of perhaps 10,000 animals. Project Crocodile, an Indian government initiative, became a crocodile conservation poster child.
Project Crocodile’s effectiveness was called into question when populations crashed again in the late 1990s, owing almost entirely to a head-starting programme. Madras Crocodile Bank Trust began to address the shortcomings of Gharial conservation up to that point in the twenty-first century, with the support of the international zoo community and the International Union for Conservation of Nature/Species Survival Commission’s Crocodile Specialist Group, to ensure that future plans for the species would succeed.